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Ladysmith eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 183 pages of information about Ladysmith.

Turning back from the extremity of our position, I went along the whole ridge.  The ground told one as much as men could tell.  Among the rocks lay blood-stained English helmets and Dutch hats; piles of English and Dutch cartridge-cases, often mixed together in places which both sides had occupied; scraps of biltong and leather belts; handkerchiefs, socks, pieces of letters, chiefly in Dutch; dropped ball cartridges of every model—­Lee-Metford, Mauser, Martini, and Austrian.  I found a few hollow-nosed bullets, too, expanding like the Dum-Dum.  The effect of such a bullet was seen on the hat of some poor fellow in the Light Horse.  There was a tiny hole on one side, but the further side was all rent to pieces.  I hear some “express” sporting bullets have also been taken to the Intelligence Office, but I have not seen them.  Beside one Boer was found one of the old Martini rifles taken from the 52nd at Majuba.

On the top of Caesar’s Camp our dead were laid out for burial—­Manchesters, Gordons, and Rifle Brigade together.  The Boers turned an automatic Maxim on the burying party, thinking they were digging earthworks.  In the wooded valley at the foot of the hill they themselves, under Geneva flags, were searching the bushes and dongas for their own dead, and disturbing the little wild deer beside the stream.  On the summit parties of our own men were still engaged unwillingly in finding the Boer dead and carrying them down the cliff.  Just at the edge of the summit, to which he had climbed in triumph, lay the body of a man about twenty.  A shell had almost cut him in half....  Only his face and his hands were untouched.  Like most of the dead he had the blue eyes and light hair of the well-bred Boer.  When first he was found, his father’s body lay beside him, shattered also, but not so horribly.  They were identified by letters from home in their pockets.

CHAPTER XVII

A PAUSE AND A RENEWAL

     January 8, 1900.

All was ready to receive another attack, but the Boers made no sign beyond the usual bombardment.  One of the wounded—­a Harrismith man—­says there is a strong party in favour of peace, men who want to get back to their farms and their families.  We have heard that tale before, but still, here the Boers are fighting for freedom and existence if ever men did.

To-day’s bombardment nearly destroyed the tents and dhoolies of our field hospital, but did little else save beheading and mangling some corpses.  The troops were changed about a good deal, half the K.R.R. being sent to the old Devon post on Helpmakaar road; half the Liverpools to King’s Post, and the Rifle Brigade to Waggon Hill.

At night there was a thanksgiving service in the Anglican Church.  I ought to have mentioned earlier that on the night before the attack the Dutch held a solemn supplication, calling on God to bless their efforts.

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